Is this the weekend? Are we now less than 40 hours away from the match that will finally see us promoted back into the Football League?
I’m not usually one for just posing a question without answering it, but obviously I’m not in a position to say yes or no. One thing I can definitely say is that there are certain aspects of being a National League team that I can say I will miss, although most of them come with being a top two National League side. There is also one thing I would not miss one little bit about the National League.
Firstly the good things, and I’m going to miss the TV coverage if we go up. We’ve been blessed this season, and perhaps we have also become very hypocritical at the same time. During the previous five seasons we’ve only really featured on the box when we’ve played one of the big clubs, I recall Fleetwood at home being one such match. This season though we’ve become the darlings of BT Sports, appearing on there more often than not. I’ve joked that you can find us on series link, but not even the best series writers would thrash as many episodes out in a single season as we’ve had. Whilst it has been a great experience I can’t help but feel a bit for the likes of North Ferriby for whom the money would make a more significant difference. Last season we moaned about a lack of exposure, but this season we’re happy to be on the box more often than Ant and Dec.
I know this point will be disputed, but I’ll also miss the FA Trophy if we go up. One positive I gleaned from coming down was that we were effectively one of the ‘big five’ when it came to both the league and cup competition, similar in a way to Chelsea in the Premier League. For the last five seasons we’ve been much more Burnley than the big five, but we’ve reaped the rewards this season. Had we not had the sparkling FA Cup run I think the FA Trophy run would have had far more appeal. To miss out so late on was gutting, and although I’ve seen some fans commenting on it being a waste of time, I disagree. I loved the fact we could potentially have been pitted against teams we’d never heard of, and we were regarded as the giants of the competition. After decades being nothing but dirt on the shoe of some League One club in the FA Cup first round, we were suddenly the ‘big draw’. Okay it didn’t work out against Carshalton or North Ferriby, but this season I think we got value for money.
I’ll also miss being one of the headline acts in the Non-League Paper if we beat Macclesfield on Saturday, a publication I’ve grown very fond of (since we’ve been good). I used to pick up the Football League Paper and drag myself to the last few pages where a couple of columns described our latest dour draw away at Rochdale. This season in particular we’ve been on the cover of the NLP more often than anyone, and whilst they’ve remained neutral our coverage has been excellent. In the absence of any other decent printed publication I’ve found it really refreshing, and should we go up I’ll be a little bit sad at having to flick past twenty pages of other clubs before I find our match report. I find it really sad how the printed Echo has gone from being the premier source of Imps news to nothing more than a brief summary of the weeks internet stories.
I’ll tell you something I won’t miss if we go up, and that is the bizarre, erratic and often derogatory official twitter feed of the National League. I’ve followed it as I’m sure a number of you have, and I’ve found it to be anti-Lincoln City at times. From describing our victory over Dagenham as ugly to one night omitting to mention us a leading in an FA Cup game, it has often been speculated as to whether the person doing the tweets has some sort of grudge against Lincoln.
A few months back I did a blog about the Brighton match not being chosen for BBC coverage. The story was that the BBC had wanted to switch fixtures and the FA had blocked it. I lashed out a bit at them protecting the interests of Man Utd and Blackburn, the match they refused to move, over ourselves.
I received a DM (direct message for all you technophobes) from the National League’s official account asking for my phone number so they could have a chat with me about the blog. I was in the bath at the time, so I messaged them back with the number mentioning my cleaning endeavours and asking if they could call me the next day. within thirty seconds the phone rang. The man on the phone introduced himself as one of a group of people who ran the official twitter feed.
What followed was perhaps one of the most bizarre thirty minutes (yes, half and hour) of my life. I can only assume the man on the other end of the line had either had a drink or has a personality disorder of some kind. I think he was angry, although I’m not sure if it was with me or someone else. He explained how it wasn’t the FA who were in the wrong, but the BBC for not choosing our game first. That covered about eight minutes of the one-way conversation, and as I slopped about in increasingly tepid water I was treated to a further twenty two minutes of ranting about, well, I’m not actually sure.
I said approximately eight words throughout the whole half hour conversation. To their credit they (whoever they were) did say they read my blog, but they also talked me through all their BT Sports connections, all their match day endeavours and embarked on a campaign to convince me they weren’t biased against Lincoln. Apparently they’d say hello to Natalie when BT Sports covered a game, and then they name dropped aload of people who I can’t recall, mainly due to the fact I was trying to wash my feet. There was some discussion (I say discussion, I mean presentation) about the nature of the National League’s tweets and how they try to be quirky and different. There was some offence taken at national newspapers referring to the National League as the Conference too. All this was interspersed with mentions of the FA and the BBC and was conducted in widely varying volumes and states of agitation.
All the whole I was laid in my now-cold bathwater as naked as the day I was born getting cramp in my hand from holding my phone. At one point I put it on the side of the bath so I could wash my hair, and he never noticed. Eventually I realised if the water got colder I’d get hyperthermia, and I noticed my skin had gone as wrinkly as an eighty-nine year old, so I tried to interject and suggest we resume the conversation at another time. That alone constituted 90% of my input into proceedings, and just getting a word in took me five minutes. I even tried sloshing the water loudly to remind the man I was still in the bath, and when the penny finally dropped I got a further three minutes summarising the initial point of the call. Eventually I managed to get the caller off the phone, and I realised I’d lost half and hour of my life in a cold bath listening the inconsistent and crazy rhetoric of an official National League spokesman. It was the worst bath ever, and once I took a bath with a girl who urinated within minutes of getting in and tried to pretend she hadn’t. It was even worse than that. It disturbed me that much I even blocked the National League on twitter before I got out.
I won’t miss baths like that if we get promoted. In fact after writing this today I am going to try and forget it ever happened.